On Saturday the Libertarian Party gained its first official holder of a statewide elected office, the Sante Fe New Mexican reports. Aubrey Dunn, Jr., the New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands, has officially left the Republicans and switched his voter registration to Libertarian.
Building on the official major-party status secured in New Mexico by former Gov. Gary Johnson’s 2016 presidential campaign, Libertarians are seeking to make a dedicated push in the Land of Enchantment in 2018. Former Democratic state Rep. Sandra Jeff, has also joined the Libertarians and is running for Secretary of State.
Dunn’s son, A. Blair Dunn, is running for attorney general as a Libertarian, and is encouraging his father to make a bid for U.S. Senate as the party’s nominee. Incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich (D), has not yet attracted any notable Republican opponents.
A major statewide office, in an important state for the Libertarian Party
As Land Commissioner, Dunn manages millions of acres of public land and mineral resources, generating hundreds of millions of dollars for the state’s education system. During his tenure he has sought to balance environmental stewardship with economic development, while fighting to eliminate the widespread corruption that had plagued the office under his predecessors.
Dunn had previously considered a bid for either U.S. House or Governor of New Mexico, but interest currently seems focused on the possibility of a run or U.S. Senate. His term as Land Commissioner expires in January 2019.
He joins a handful of other elected officials who have defected to the Libertarian Party in the past two years while still in office, including state senator Laura Ebke of Nebraska, state senator Mark Madsen of Utah, and three members of the New Hampshire state legislature’s lower house. The party also holds a handful of appointed offices, including Mark Rutherford as chair of the Indiana Public Defender Commission, and Adam Schwemley on the Alaska Public Offices Commission.